To Shave, or Not To Shave - is that a question?

This article is something that is always a topic of conversation amongst the hairloss / alopecia community - and something that people often as me about.
So, I wanted to write a little blog article on this topic and share a little of my own thinking.
So, the article title – crazy?For some of you, you may think – it is obviously a question! What kind of title is this, michelle? You silly girly! You may wonder my reasoning…..
Okay. So I feel this is actually a really personal, and very sensitive subject if I am totally honest with all of you. Hairloss affects each of us differently because we are all amazingly and uniquely different! That is the beauty of humanity! 
 
You are unique, beautiful, different from everyone else! We are all different.
We are individual. This is so special!
For me, the above really does guide most of my reasoning for what is to come.
So my hair loss journey is due to alopecia areata – and this began end of July, 2015. For me, it was rapid. (photos here at the side) The shaving topic for me was a suggestion raised by a friend in work.
I lost a large patch from the back of my head 31/07/2015. I tried to cover up what remained. 2 days later I lost another huge patch from the front of my head. My friend Lynne said “you could shave it, and raise money for charity. If it comes back, then it’ll all come back one length”
I would have NEVER have contemplated shaving. It would just never have been something to occur to me at that time. I was in a state of utter confusion at this point in time
Prior to the hairloss, my head had been so itchy, the areas I developed patches of hairloss - they were tingly and had all of these odd nerve pain type of sensations. I know some suffer with this, others not as much - for me it was intolerable.
Within days, my whole head was beginning to tingle. Deep down, I sensed that is was inevitable that more would shed- it was a cruel waiting game.
At home, I spoke to my husband and parents. I raised the "shave" topic of conversation. My family saw that I was struggling emotionally with the loss of my hair (although only a couple of days in), and said “you do whatever suits you and do it for you- not others
This may be the best advice. In the history of the planet.
Ever!
So I was hurting emotionally, but I decided to announce via facebook “ok so I have alopecia and so I’ve decided to shave my head and go for the MacMillan brave the shave….. if anyone wants to sponsor me, the link is below…..”
I was overwhelmed, astonished and astounded at the responses of so many amazing and kind friends.
For me, shaving at this time was my way to focus on helping others and try shift my thoughts from my alopecia to trying to help someone else as well as me taking control of this condition.
What is Control? With alopecia?! 
The nature of autoimmune alopecia is that it is neither controllable, not is it predictable. We can not influence what happens physically to our hair. How then can we have control over this situation??
 
 
For me, deciding to shave felt empowering. I felt that I was taking control of my alopecia, and removing my hair rather than the heartache of watching it slowly fall out and land on my wee pillow each morning (or up my husbands nose or in his mouth!)
For me, as the remainder of my hair said goodbye to me - I found seeing spikes easier to cope with than strands of my hair.
So Should we shave?  ABSOLUTELY NOT !!!
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t either.
No matter the cause of type of hairloss you have, whether you have lost only one small patch, or whether you have only one remaining strand - there is no absolute correct with regards to whether to shave or not -  it is ALL ABOUT THE WONDERFUL AND BEAUTIFUL YOU !!!
 You are the star in your story, it is YOUR journey. 
Often, it can be a difficult thing to put ourselves first. Often, I find that I was mentioning things I wanted, but almost asking permission from others. I feel that by speaking to my family helped me to process everything I was going through, but I ultimately had to make the decision which was best for me - and not consider it to be selfish. I was so so blessed to have amazing support, and for that I am always thankful.
For me, shaving was the easiest option to handle the situation emotionally. I have the utmost respect for those who can hold on to the hair they have remaining, and those who have maybe only a few strands and beautifully show that hair. It is admirable and I have so much love and respect for those who do so.
For me, I just could not - but again, that is just me personally. Shaving for me was the right thing to do. For me.
What I would say…… if you are contemplating “the shave” it has to be your very own decision.
Only you know what is best for yourself.
Ensure that you make the decision based upon your needs. Consider all avenues, and remember you can change your mind any time.  No one size will ever fit all. Why is that?…..
We are all individual. 
No one on this planet has your soul, or your experiences and emotions. You are the only person who knows yourself truly.
Friends and families always have love and care and the best of intentions when making recommendations - but often, people will recommend what would suit them - and it is good to listen to others, but it is what suits your lovely self.  If you want to shave and feel you are ready and want to get those clippers right now……. then go for it - it can be empowering. It is also emotionally overwhelming.
If you have not decided, or are hesitant - you can wait. there is always time, and there is never a rush. I would say please dont do it unless you know it is what YOU want and feel is best for yourself. 
I believe that you need to allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with hair loss. These will often guide your decisions. They absolutely have to be considered.

IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY!

YOU ARE ALLOWED TO GRIEVE THE LOSS OF YOUR HAIR! 

Hairloss may be a physical condition, but we are not just physical beings. We are intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual as well as physical - so all of these other aspects of ourselves are actually the areas that can be the most massively affected with hairloss. 
 
"We are not our hair"…… has anyone said this to you?
I don’t know if I love or hate it! I wholeheartedly agree - I am not my hair, What I do believe is this: we are used to seeing ourselves in mirrors / photos etc. A change in physical image can cause havoc with out emotional wellbeing. our sense of self.
What we see in a mirror is our reflection. It is us.
Our looks form part of what we feel is our identity. When we lose our hair or our physical appearance changes……. it can massively affect our sense of identity. I believe that when we lose our hair – we can feel like our identity is sliding away. This is NOT vanity. When you look in a mirror and don’t know who is looking back – it can be traumatic.
I feel that the topic of shaving or not – it is about our emotional wellbeing: how we are affected psychologically by the physical condition.
Alopecia is a strange condition to have, as it forces you to examine the real you. The you inside. The beautiful and wonderful person that you are. It is not easy, and I don’t want to pretend that it is...... What I do know, is that there is support and you don’t need to walk this path alone. 
Alopecia Can take your hair, but it can never take your beauty
I am more accepting of michelle now,  than I was a few stone lighter with my own bio hair!  Alopecia is a strange thing! I guess in many ways I felt it broke me to then allow me to rebuild stronger and happier, and accepting.
For those of you pondering the “do I shave?” topic of conversation...... my final advice would be that if you feel that you want to shave and just want it done already- go for it. If you are unsure or not 100% about when – don’t do it. There is always the option to do it later, or never! Wait.
You do not HAVE to shave. Likewise, you do not have to wait for any particular volume of hair loss to do so. 
Explain to friends and family if shaving is something you want to do, and explain that it is part of your coping, your journey, and you just need lots of love, cuddles and moral support in the choices. 
Sending you all some huge - the biggest hugs and love.
I’ll attach some photos of my journey of patches to loss- for me it was fast. For me, the hairline going was a strange one to get used to.
All my love as always,
Michelle
xxxxx

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